Games Computers Play


  • 2 players
  • 15 pieces each
  • Goal: Move all pieces off the board
  • Rules:
    Dice roll determines number of moves
    Players move in opposite directions
    Piece cannot land on a point occupied by 2 or more of opponent's pieces
    Single piece can be "hit" if landed on by opponent; hit piece must start anew
  • Program: TD-Gammon *
  • Advantage: Too close to call


  • 4 players in 2 teams
  • 13 cards dealt to each player
  • Goal: Make 2 "game contracts," or a "rubber"
  • Rules:
    The bid: Each player predicts how many times his or her card will be the highest (a trick)
    The play: Put down 1 card at a time and compare it with others; this occurs 13 times
    The scoring: Points scored if bid is made or exceeded; otherwise points go to the opposing team
  • Program: GIB *
  • Advantage: Human


  • 2 players
  • 12 pieces each
  • Goal: Avoid being the player who can no longer move (usually when a player has no pieces left)
  • Rules:
    Move forward on dark diagonal, 1 square at a time
    Opponent's piece captured when jumped to empty square diagonally behind opponent's piece
    Creation of a "king," a piece that can move backward and forward, occurs when piece is moved to opponent's last row
  • Program: Chinook
  • Advantage: Machine


  • 2 players
  • 16 pieces each (1 king, 1 queen, 2 rooks, 2 bishops, 2 knights, 8 pawns)
  • Goal: Capture opponent's king (checkmate)
  • Rules:
    Pieces are captured when landed on by opponent's piece
    Type of piece dictates movement options
  • Program: Deep Blue
  • Advantage: Too close to call


  • 2 players
  • Black-and-white stones
  • Grid size of board can vary: typical game is on 19-by-19 grid points
  • Goal: Conquer a larger part of the board (conquered part encompasses stones placed on board plus stones that could be added safely--that is, within the player's walls)
  • Rules:
    Both sides alternate in placing stones on the board
    Stones surrounded by an opponent's stones are captured and removed from the board
  • Program: Handtalk *
  • Advantage: Human, by a huge margin


  • 2 players
  • Black-and-white disks
  • Goal: Have most disks on the board at the end of the game
  • Rules:
    Players alternate placing disks on unoccupied board spaces
    If opponent's disks are trapped between other player's disks, opponent's disks are flipped to the other player's color
  • Program: Logistello
  • Advantage: Machine

POKER (Texas Hold 'Em)

  • 3 to 20 players
  • 2 cards dealt to each player; 5 cards placed in center of table
  • Goal: Obtain the best hand and win the "pot"
  • Rules:
    5 center (community) cards start facedown
    First round of betting ensues; 3 community cards are turned over
    Subsequent rounds of betting ensue; 4th and 5th community cards turned over
    Players select best 5 from the community cards and their hands to obtain identical kinds of cards (pairs, 3- and 4-of-a-kind), flushes (all same suit), straights (sequential) or their combinations
    Final round of betting ensues
  • Program: LOKI
  • Advantage: Human, by a huge margin


  • 2 to 4 players
  • 100 tiled letters
  • Goal: Accumulate most points by creating high-scoring words
  • Rules:
    Each player draws 7 letters
    Each letter has a value
    Squares on the board have values
    Words created must join an array
  • Program: Maven * (used in Scrabble CD-ROM)
  • Advantage: Machine, by a slight margin

Images: JOHN MENGEL Ponzi & Weill
* Indicates commercial software that runs on personal computers
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